The current surge in the usage of smart devices has contributed significantly to the large volumes of internet traffic data being generated. In the year 2021, it was estimated that the total population in the world was 7.83 billion and about 4.66 billion of them are active internet users; which constitutes about 59.5 of the total population [1]. On average, 57 exabytes of data were generated per month in that year [2]. These facts illustrate how many people are engaged in online activities, hence the need for people to protect their privacy online.

There are several ways internet users can adopt to enhance their privacy online. This article focuses mainly on how users can prevent or minimize online tracking through the use of “cookies”. A brief overview of online tracking is presented together with some techniques to minimize the tracking.

Users’ activities online leave a trail. When a user visits a website, a file called “cookie” is stored on his browser. Websites use cookies to enhance users’ browsing experience. Cookies are used to keep your login sessions on visited websites active. They can also be used to show topics of interest. Some are used to show targeted advertisements and some are also used by analytics companies to get details about websites users visit. These details can include the number of hours a user spent on a site, pages visited, etc. These details are sometimes used to resolve issues on the visited websites to enhance the user experience.

Despite the positive usage of cookies, some websites use them in device fingerprinting. Device fingerprinting is a technique where the websites use the cookies to uniquely identify your browser/device and hence can track your activities. This results in targeted ads across all your electronic devices.

One cannot completely get rid of targeted ads. A user can adjust his privacy settings on the browsers used in surfing the internet. One can decide to allow certain types of cookies to be stored on the websites visited. Furthermore, one can decide to delete the stored cookies. This approach isn’t permanent since cookies deleted or cleared can be set again. Hence one will be required to clear them periodically.

Most mobile devices have a privacy settings option that enables one to control targeted ads. For instance, on an iPhone one can disable Ad personalization, location control, tracking controls, and also reset advertising identifiers. A new feature called “Private Relay” can be turned on the protect your location and browsing activity while using their Safari browser.

Ad blockers can be used to prevent target ads. Not all ads can be blocked by ad blockers. Recently, it has been realized that some websites are capable of detecting the use of ad blockers and therefore block users from accessing some specific content on their website. It is expedient for users. To compare the features and reviews of these ad blockers before using them. It should be noted that ad blockers do not protect one from viruses or malware infections.

If you don’t want the browsing history, cookies, etc to be persistent and used in user tracking, there is an option for private mode in all browsers. In Chrome, it is called “Incognito” mode whereas Firefox calls it “Private Browsing”; just to mention a few. Even though incognito browsing does have certain benefits, it still doesn’t fully maintain your privacy online. Anonymous search engines like “duckduckgo” and virtual private networks can help boost your online privacy; a story for another day.

In summary, this article highlights a few approaches to help protect your privacy online. It will be advisable to adopt these techniques together with other resilient techniques to enhance your online privacy.